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SBDC names Equine Clinic '98 best start-up business

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by Carrie Groves

SBJ Contributing Writer

Less than a year after opening the Equine Clinic on Evans Road, veterinarian Rick Smith and his wife, Beth, have been honored with the Missouri Small Business Development Centers' 1998 State of Missouri Best Start-up Business Award.

The SBDC operates a number of centers in the state, and each center works with a large number of clients yearly. From these clients, members of the SBDC staff nominate candidates for annual Excellence in Business Awards.

The SBDC at Southwest Missouri State University nominated the Smiths. The excellence awards are presented to only a dozen businesses throughout the state, and from them, the best start-up is selected.

The SBDC offers classes and consulting services for new and existing businesses. Only about 50 percent of the potential new businesses explored with the help of SBDC are actually started.

Discussing the success of the Equine Clinic, Rayanna Anderson, local SBDC assistant director, pointed out that most of the businesses that come to the SBDC are existing businesses, and that it is an indicator of how strong a new business is when it receives an Excellence Award.

Winners are selected by a panel of judges, which includes representatives from the SBA, SBDC and other business organizations.

Winning businesses are chosen for impact, which Anderson said translates as "increased sales and increased profits, job creation, and the ability to procure loans" to develop the enterprise.

Rick and Beth Smith received their two awards in February at a ceremony at the Capital Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City. They also received proclamations from state Sen. Roseann Bentley and state Rep. Roy Holand.

Holand also presented the couple the following day to the gathered House of Representatives.

"It was exciting," Beth Smith said. "It was also the only time since the clinic opened that we've allowed ourselves a day off."

Beth Smith had attended the SBDC "How to Write a Business Plan" class, which she said was invaluable in obtaining their SBA loan.

Both she and her husband attended a class in the SBDC Financial Series, which teaches financial planning for business owners who do not have a strong background in the subject.

Because they wanted to open a clinic in the Springfield area, the Smiths spent a year commuting 300 miles each trip from Troy to Springfield, to work with area SBDC consultant Brad Lindner. Together they prepared feasibility studies, comprehensive financial projections, and demographic reports. Their planning has paid off.

The Equine Clinic is the only veterinary clinic in Springfield that works with horses, as well as small animals, and the Smiths draw clients from all over Christian and Greene counties.

Rick Smith received his doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1994, and came here from a large practice in Troy.

Beth Smith manages the office and the business end of the practice.

Rick Smith treats horses, cats and dogs at the clinic.

He also makes farm calls and services several large commercial accounts that he travels to as needed.

"We're very proud of what we've accomplished so far, and now we're looking toward the future," Beth Smith said. "We want to see our practice grow and become a multi-vet practice. We'd like to add grooming and more hospital space for both horses and small animals. Our plans are to have a horse surgery suite within a year, because now most major horse surgeries have to be referred to the university at Columbia because they're the only facility with gas anesthesia. We'd like to make that available to local horse owners."

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